Sunday, December 23, 2007
ESPN Audio Veteran Ron Scalise Will Be Remembered Fondly
(Updated 12/25/07 Please Read Comments) Word started to circulate through the sports TV community on Friday morning. One of ESPN's best known "crew guys" had lost his life late Thursday night in a single car accident on a Connecticut highway.
Ron Scalise was only 54 years old. In his decades of hard work on the road, Scalise had become an audio legend. As we said many times this season, the ESPN audio of the NASCAR races was outstanding. It had to be, if Ron was in charge.
Over the years, Scalise had moved-on to become what many consider the "audio guru" of sports television. He wanted to educate both the industry and the public on the incredible changes taking place in the audio side of the television world. The technical innovations that he helped bring to TV sports coverage will never be forgotten.
NASCAR fans may remember during the "old" ESPN days when Ron pushed the "natural sound" from the cars right-up against the announcers voices. Even though the announcers were actually high-up in an air conditioned booth, Ron still made them "talk over" the real sound of the race. It made all the difference in the world.
Remember loudly hearing your first "air gun" on a pit stop? How about the tires of a car squealing as it left pit road? When a car spun, hit the wall and you actually heard it hit...at home. That was Ron.
Few people in the sports TV business had the single-minded focus of Ron Scalise. As a part of his drive, he met and befriended many young people who were willing to work hard and learn the audio side of the business. One outstanding testament to Ron's influence can be read by clicking here for Frenchy's blog.
Ron influenced the importance of audio in almost every sports telecast, and he was able to do it because ESPN was on-the-air every day for 24 hours. As the network grew, Ron was able to pass along his belief that a strong natural sound "bed" should be a vital part of every sports event. Sports TV viewers grew to expect that if they saw it, they should be able to hear it.
In the middle of a screaming crowd at a Duke vs. Carolina game, ESPN viewers could hear the players sneakers squeaking on the floor under the basket. When Tony Hawk or Saun White tipped slowly off the lip and headed down the "vert ramp" at lightning speed, all four wheels of that skateboard made their way right into your home.
That was the whole idea. While the announcers told you about the action, and the cameras showed it to you, there was only one way to make it real. That was to hear it.
In my ESPN NASCAR days, it was Ron Scalise at one analog audio board behind a glass window mixing the entire race by hand. He sat in the same part of the TV truck as the Producer, Director, Technical Director, Graphics Operator, Assistant Producer, and Associate Director. It made for cozy confines, and rather stimulating conversation.
Decades later, Scalise was moderating seminars on how Digital Dolby Surround Sound should be used in major sports venues. His success was due to hard work and seemingly endless dedication to his cause. We can only hope that the generation of audio mixers influenced by Ron will keep his memory alive by passing on his passion for using audio to bring the event right into the viewer's home.
Ron Scalise won 14 National Emmy Awards and called Kenmore, NY his home. The sports TV world will go on, but it will never be the same.
Update: To post tributes to Ron, go to ronscaliseaudio.blogspot.com, a site that was set up for that purpose. There will be a memorial service on Dec. 26th in Southbury, and the address for the fund to help his children with college is posted below in the comments section. Thanks to everyone who took the time to share a thought.
The Daly Planet welcomes comments on this column from those who have something to add about Ron, and his work. Just click on the COMMENTS button below. Thank you.